As with most things in life, on-line booking systems have their upsides and downsides.
If you’re considering introducing an on-line booking system in the hope of simplifying things in your salon, then it’s good to be first aware of how it may impact on your business, both positively and negatively.
But, let’s take a look at the positives first.
Depending on the online booking system you choose to use, you’ll get different features included.
The systems I’ve looked at allow the client to book her appointment from your Facebook page as well as your website. This sounds like a promising start!
There’s no doubt that this will be very convenient for many of your clients, as it allows them to book their appointments outside of your salon hours.
This is a real plus for working women who can’t find time during the day for making personal appointments.
No-shows are rapidly becoming the bane of every salon owner’s life.
Unless clients are asked to pre-pay for their services, it means that you’re often left unable to refill that empty spot in your appointment book, and therefore you’ll be left out of pocket.
Many of the online booking systems allow you to request either full or partial payment when taking the booking, and this has to be a major deterrent for those clients who in the past, have opted to simply not show up for their appointment.
If you decide to ask for a substantial deposit or even full payment when the on-line booking is being made, it will mean that if the client decides not to show up, then instead of you being the one out of pocket, it will be the client.
Solo therapists, who work from home or in a small salon, can find it difficult to answer the phone whilst providing client services.
It’s not only frustrating for the therapist who has to constantly leave her client, but can be very annoying for the client also.
And it’s especially irritating if the client is having a relaxing treatment that shouldn’t be riddled with interruptions.
The use of on-line bookings by your clients reduces the number of unwanted interruptions throughout the day, which is a bonus for both you and your clients.
So now we’ve looked at the positives of using an on-line booking system, let’s take a look at some of the negatives that might impact on your business.
Chunks of unused time in your appointment book costs you money – and lots of it.
This fact applies whether you use on-line bookings or regular bookings handled by salon staff.
It means you end up paying for unutilised employee time, as well as also losing potential revenue.
Let’s take a closer look at this scenario for an average salon with 3 therapists operating on 15 minute time allotments.
If there are 3 gaps of 15 minutes in each column for 5 days a week, then you have a total of 675 minutes (11.25 hrs) per week of wasted appointment time.
Multiply that by 50 weeks and you have 562.5 hours of wasted time over a year.
At $25 per hour plus super, that equates to $15,468.75 in wages paid out for nothing in return.
But that’s just half the equation.
What about lost revenue?
Given that no salon is booked out 100% of the time, let’s just work on 80% instead.
That means that 450 hours (80% of 562.5 hrs) @ a reasonable $100 per hour in expected sales, results in lost revenue of $45,000.
Together, these two losses total up to a staggering $60,468.75 per year.
I think you’ll agree that this huge amount of lost revenue isn’t something you’d want to see happen in your salon.
Those little gaps scattered all over your appointment book really can have a huge impact on your revenue potential.
But what has this good to do with on-line bookings?
Well, if your on-line booking system simply allows your clients to book into whichever time-slot they want, then you have no control over those unwanted but expensive gaps that will definitely occur.
All online bookings would need to be reviewed regularly, and those bookings that need to be moved to remove a gap, will require a telephone call to the client to adjust her appointment time accordingly.
No Up-selling Opportunity
When you personally interact with your clients during the appointment taking process, you have lots of opportunities to up-sell to them. This isn’t possible when the clients book in their own treatments.
Up-selling at the time of booking has many advantages.
Not only does it allow you to capture that elusive $20 extra (or more) per client that will make a big impact on your revenue, but it also means that you’ll be able to allow the additional time required for that extra 1 or 2 services required by some clients.
It was the policy in my salon that as the staff member was taking the client booking, she would also review the client’s treatment history to see what other services she’d had in the past (and may want to have again).
This was actually a real life-saver for us on many occasions, because it allowed us to book the client in for other services she hadn’t thought to mention, but still expected to receive during her appointment.
As a salon owner, you’ll already appreciate how difficult it is when your clients ask for extra services that you haven’t allowed time for.
You’re caught between wanting to make your current client happy (and get the extra money) by giving her what she wants, and keeping your next client waiting for her appointment.
Not a good choice to have to make, as one of your clients is going to be either disappointed or annoyed.
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This will only be an issue if you require all of your bookings to be made on-line.
Clients can be hesitant to make a booking until they’ve had a chance to speak to a real person – especially if they’re new to your salon.
An automated booking system can’t assuage their fears or answer their questions, and so they might simply decide to go elsewhere, so that they can interact with a real person.
Also, some clients will object to being asked to pay in advance for their services, and while it’s generally not compulsory to take a payment or deposit using your on-line booking system, if you don’t, then you won’t have addressed the issue of no-shows.
There you have it.
On-line bookings can be a real blessing for some salons by minimising annoying interruptions, as well as securing deposits for appointments.
But before you jump in and commit completely to only on-line bookings, consider both the positive and negative aspects, do your research, and then you can decide what’s going to be right for your salon.
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